Blog – Posted on Monday, May 20
20 Amazing Dragon Books for Fantasy Fans
With Game of Thrones finally reaching the end of its epic eight-season run, public interest in dragon books (and their adaptations) is arguably at an all-time high. Like vampires and zombies, these winged creatures tend to share common mythology: they tend to be vain, powerful, blinded by gold-lust, and often incredibly loyal to a single human counterpart.
To help you fight your GoT withdrawal symptoms (at least until Winds of Winter finally arrives), here are 20 dragon books you’ll want to check out:
1. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
The first book in McCaffrey’s sprawling Dragonriders of Pern series shot her to acclaim back in the late 1960s, making her the first woman writer to win both a Hugo and a Nebula Award (admittedly, both awards had only been around a few years).
In the far future, humans have colonized a planet called Pern, which is protected by dragons and riders known as Weyrs. When Lessa, the surviving daughter of a once-great family, goes on the run from her family’s killers, she ends up joining the ranks of a Weyr — where many great things await her.
2. Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
In 1917, three Oxford scholars are entrusted with the Imaginarium Geographica by their recently deceased professor. The book contains the secret locations to mythical lands — information which makes them the target of some dark forces. In a bit of a well-known twist, our heroes are revealed to be the authors J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams — and their adventures take them to a hidden real realm where, indeed, there be dragons.
3. Temeraire (His Majesty's Dragon) by Naomi Novik
In the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Will Lawrence of the King’s Navy captures a ship carrying a precious dragon’s egg. When the hatchling inside imprints itself on Lawrence, he makes the decision to abandon his naval career and join Britain’s mighty fleet of dragon-bourne ‘aviators’.
Novik creates a rich and rewarding alternative history, devising entire global cultures around fascinating dragon characters in this beloved series of page-turners.
4. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
As the author describes it, Tooth and Claw is “a sentimental Victorian novel in which all the characters are dragons who eat each other.” When a dragon patriarch passes away, his children gather to eat his body as a part of their inheritance rites. But when a greedy son-in-law helps himself to a second helping of daddy dearest, it sparks a struggle for status amongst the siblings.
Heavily influenced by the works of Anthony Trollope, Tooth and Claw is a delightful fantasy homage with strong ripples of politics and romance.
5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
For many readers, their first introduction to fantasy dragons would have been in Tolkien’s beloved classic of the genre.
Deep in the lonely mountain, the dragon Smaug jealously guards an enormous cache of golden treasures he stole from the dwarf kingdom over 150 years ago. His time as the greatest gold-hoarded in Middle Earth is about to come to an end, however, as the dwarves (along with a wizard and a tiny burglar) plan to take it back.
6. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
If you prefer your dragon books with a bit more scientific rigor, then this one’s for you. It’s written as the memoir of Isabella, a Victorian aristocrat who bucks the patriarchy to become a leading expert in the science of dragons. A mix between a coming-of-age novel, an examination of social conventions, and a tribute to trailblazers like the 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning, the first of Brennan’s Lady Trent novels is a real treat. It’s also a fantastic entry point for fantasy-phobic readers interested in getting their dragon fix.
7. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
If you grew up in the 90s, chances are that you dreamed of riding a luckdragon and soaring through the skies to a sick synth soundtrack.
In Michael Ende’s original novel, a young warrior named Atreyu is tasked with finding a cure to save the mysterious child empress. On his journey, he battles a terrible monster to rescue a luckdragon — whom he quickly takes on as his trusty sidekick (and mode of transport).
8. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Unlike most YA fantasy novels, this first entry in Paolini’s Inheritance cycle was actually written (and self-published) while the author was still a teenager.
Following the classic hero’s journey plot, the book centers on Eragon, a poor farm boy who discovers what turns out to be a dragon egg. When an evil king come searching, the boy and his dragon hatchling must make a run for it — beginning his journey to becoming a mythical dragon rider.
9. Dragon Champion by E. E. Knight
Knight’s Age of Fire series (of which Dragon Champion is the first installment) sets itself apart from most of the books in this list by casting the dragons as the protagonists in their own story. Auron is a dragon hatchling who has been captured and separated from his family. To save his race from a warlord who uses dragons to fight his battles, Auron must infiltrate his army by volunteering as a fighter.
10. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
HBO’s Game of Thrones might very well be responsible for sparking culture’s current obsession with these winged beasts (at least with adults). But credit must ultimately fall at the feet of the Grimdark master himself, as he proves in this fifth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire.
11. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
When an Illuminati-like secret society in Ankh-Morpork decides to overthrow the ruler, they decide that summoning a dragon is the best plan of attack. What they didn’t count on is that this noble dragon would decide to crown himself as King, demanding gold and virgin suicides. With the city in a panic, it’s up to the (totally incompetent) Night’s Watch and their latest (and actually not incompetent) recruit to save the day.
12. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
In a kingdom where humans and dragons share a fragile co-existence, the body of the crown prince is discovered — with all signs pointing to murder by dragon. Seraphina, a talented young court musician is drawn into the mystery. However, she has a secret to keep: she is, in fact, a half-dragon!
13. The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Perhaps best known for her Farseer series, Robin Hobb’s 2009 novel introduced readers to a new corner of her fantasy world. Set in a time when dragons have almost become a mere memory, a set of eggs hatch, revealing a group of malformed hatchlings. Quickly branded as a menace to society, these dragons must escape to a new home under the auspices of Thymara, a young girl with a deep familial connection to these creatures.
While the books above are targeted at readers older readers, kids have plenty to choose from as well. Here are some great examples of dragon books for younger fans:
14. Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton
Adapted from the timeless song by Peter, Paul, and Mary (which is definitely not about marijuana), this picture book brings the land of Honalee to life with beautiful illustrations by painter Eric Puybaret. Packaged in a lovely felt case, the hardcover edition also comes with an exclusive CD containing the original song and a bunch of new ones too. How’s that for multimedia!
15. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
This children’s novel from the Inkheart author is another charming tale of a boy and his scaly friend. Firedrake is a dragon who lives in a secret valley in England. After he learns of the humans’ plans to flood his home, he sets off in search of a mythical place in the Himalayas where he and his dragon-kin can live in peace. Along the way, Firedrake and his friend Sorrel (a forest pixie) save an orphan and spirit the boy away on their adventure.
An animated adaptation is set for a release in 2020, so make sure you read the book first!
16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Sure, dragons appear in many of the Harry Potter books. But in Goblet of Fire, they really take center stage. For the first challenge of the Triwizard Tournament, the student competitors must retrieve a golden egg from under one of four dragons: The Common Welsh, the Swedish Short-Snout, the Chinese Fireball, and — deadliest of all — the Hungarian Horntail. No prizes for guessing which one of these Harry has to face!
17. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
On the Viking island of Berk, a boy named Hiccup must follow an ancient tradition: to capture and tame a dragon, or face exile. When he happens upon a small creature (whom he names Toothless), the two strike up an unlikely bond and become the heroes his clan never expected. Inspiring 11 sequels (as well as a blockbuster movie franchise), How to Train Your Dragon is a perfect blend of adventure, friendship, and silly humor. In other words: an ideal children's book!
18. Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett
In the titular tale from this collection of early short stories by Discworld author Terry Pratchett, a group of mischievous dragons has invaded a castle while King Arthur and his knights are off on holiday. With the grown-ups nowhere to be found, it’s up to a small boy to don a tiny suit of armor and evict these fire-breathing squatters. Laugh-out-loud funny, this silly story (and its companion pieces) are a great entry point for young readers looking to get into the late, great man’s body of work.
19. Dragon Boy by Dick King-Smith
Lesser-known to readers outside of the UK, King-Smith is one of the great children’s writers Britain has ever produced. In this much-loved story, a pair of dragons adopt a young orphan boy who quickly proves himself a valuable member of the house. As time progresses, he becomes best friends with the dragons’ daughter and gets pulled into some light adventuring in this funny and unusual family saga.
20. The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
In an alternate version of modern Britain, 15-year-old Jennifer Strange is pushed into becoming the official Dragonslayer’s apprentice. However, when her mentor suddenly dies, she finds herself taking up the mantle as the titular last dragonslayer.
Looking for more great fantasy picks? Check out 100 of our favorite fantasy series of all time.